An infection with the herpes simplex virus, which is commonly called herpes, can be caused by either the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
What is the herpes simplex virus, what are its types, danger, causes, symptoms and methods of treatment?
Herpes simplex virus
The herpes simplex virus, known since ancient times in Greece, infects people. It is an infection that affects the skin, mucous membranes and genitals, and may reach to become fatal infections.
The herpes simplex viruses belong to the herpes virus family, namely HSV-1 and HSV-2. The two viruses are common and infectious. When these viruses infect humans, they spread to the skin and all other living organisms. In addition, it can be transmitted due to contact with body fluids such as saliva and as a result of infection with the herpes simplex virus. Water bubbles appear in the skin or an infection in the layer of the mouth, lip, or the external genitals.
Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 are two types of viruses from the herpesvirus family that infect humans, as they are considered nerve-directing viruses that enter the body and hide in the cells of the nervous system, which ensures their continuity in the human body.
The herpes simplex virus infection is also characterized by the fact that the lesions are recovering, but the virus itself remains hidden in the cells of the nervous system and causes repeated attacks in places close to the site of the main infection, as the viruses move from the body of the nerve cell to the skin, causing a recurrence of the lesion.
Herpes simplex disease is highly contagious when the virus is active in the body, as it multiplies quickly and is shed by the virus carrier, making the people who come into contact with the infected person vulnerable to infection.
Types of herpes simplex
There are two main types which are:
- Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
- And the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause lifelong infection with an estimated 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 infected worldwide (an average of 67% of the population).
It is estimated that around 417 million people are infected with HSV-2 (11%) worldwide between the ages of 15 and 49.
Having HSV-2 infection increases the risk of contracting and transmitting HIV.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)
It is a severe infection that is widespread all over the world, and most HSV-1 infections occur in childhood and then the infection continues throughout life.
In the vast majority of cases a person becomes infected with HSV-1 with oral herpes (infection in or around the mouth that is sometimes called oral herpes) but in some cases the virus also causes genital herpes (infection in the genital or anal area).
The extent of the problem:
That from year to year the number of infections with this virus increases at a rate (40-50%).
It was estimated that 140 million people were infected with the reproductive system of HSV-1 in 2012, between the ages of 15 and 49, but its prevalence varied widely by region.
Signs and symptoms:
Oral herpes infection is usually asymptomatic and most people infected with HSV-1 are not aware that they have it in the first place.
Among the symptoms of oral herpes can be distinguished painful blisters or open lesions (called sores) in or around the mouth.
Affected people often feel a tingling, itching or burning in the mouth area before the lesions appear.
After the initial infection, vesicles or ulcers may recur periodically, and the frequency of their occurrence varies in different people.
As for genital herpes caused by the HSV-1 virus, it may be asymptomatic or with mild symptoms that go unnoticed, as one or more vesicles or ulcers may be observed in the genital area, and after the initial appearance of genital herpes, the symptoms may recur. The frequency of their appearance is usually low.
How is the herpes simplex virus type 1 infection transmitted:
HSV-1 is transmitted mainly by oral contact, in the common cold, through saliva, and on surfaces inside or around the mouth, however due to oral genital contact, HSV-1 can also enter the genital area and cause genital herpes.
HSV-1 can pass through the surface of the skin that appears normal and has no symptoms.
In rare cases, infection caused by HSV-1 can be passed from an infected mother with this virus to the baby during the birth process.
In people with a weakened immune system, HSV-1 can cause more severe symptoms and more frequent relapses.
In rare cases, HSV-1 infection can also cause more serious complications, such as encephalitis or keratitis (eye inflammation).
Newborn herpes virus type 1 risk:
The development of neonatal herpes can occur when a newborn baby comes into contact with the herpes simplex virus in the genital tract during labor.
This disease is rare, reaching about 10 cases per 100,000 births in the world, but it can lead to prolonged neurological deficits or death.
The risk of developing neonatal herpes is particularly high if the primary infection of the mother with HSV occurred in late pregnancy.
And in women who have had genital herpes before pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HSV to babies is very low.
Psychological and social effects of a person infected with this virus:
Relapse of oral herpes symptoms can cause discomfort and lead to social stigma, psychological distress, and feelings of shame and anxiety.
And in genital herpes, these factors can have a serious negative impact on the quality of life and sexual relations.
However, over time most people adapt to the disease.
Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2)
Infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) that causes genital herpes is widespread in the world and is mainly transmitted through sexual contact.
HSV-2 is the main cause of genital herpes which can also be caused by type 1 herpes simplex virus where HSV-2 infection continues for life and cannot be treated.
The extent of the problem:
Genital herpes caused by the herpes virus HSV-2 is a global problem, as according to calculations in 2012, approximately 417 million people in the world were carriers of the infection, and it has also been shown that the prevalence of infection increases with age even though the largest number of individuals are infected Recently they are teenagers.
Women are infected with HSV-2 more than men, and this is explained by the fact that the sexually transmitted herpes virus is transmitted more effectively from a man to a woman than from a woman to a man.
Signs and symptoms:
Genital herpes infection is often asymptomatic or with mild symptoms that no one notices, and most infected people are unaware or aware of the infection.As a general rule, about 10-20% of people infected with HSV-2 report a previously diagnosed genital herpes .
In cases where symptoms do occur, genital herpes is characterized by the presence of one or more vesicles in the genital or anal area, or open lesions (called ulcers).
Symptoms of the initial genital herpes infection are often chills, body aches and inflammation of the lymph nodes.
After an initial attack of genital herpes caused by infection with HSV-2, the symptoms recur, but are less severe than the first attack, and the frequency of attacks decreases over time.
People infected with HSV-2 may experience slight pain and tingling in the legs, thighs, and buttocks before the genital sores appear.
Transmission of HSV-2 infection:
HSV-2 is usually transmitted through sexual contact through skin-to-skin contact with genital surfaces through infected areas or human fluids infected with this virus.
HSV-2 can be transmitted through the skin in otherwise healthy-looking genital or anal areas and is often transmitted even when there are no symptoms.
In rare cases, the infection can be transmitted from an infected mother to the infant during childbirth.
HSV-2 and HIV have been shown to affect each other as HSV-2 infection increases the risk of HIV infection by about three times.
Infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) most often occurs in people with HIV (and other immunocompromised people) in a more severe form with more frequent relapses.
In the late stage of HIV infection, infection with HSV-2 can lead to more serious, albeit rare, complications such as meningoencephalitis, esophagitis, hepatitis, pneumonia and retinal necrosis.
Newborn herpes is rare but in some cases a fatal disease can occur if a newborn comes into contact with the herpes simplex virus in the birth canal during childbirth.
The risk of developing neonatal herpes is especially high if the primary infection of the mother with HSV occurs in late pregnancy.
Psychological and social implications
Repeated symptoms of genital herpes can cause pain and lead to social stigma and psychological disorders.These factors can have a serious negative impact on quality of life and sexuality, however over time most people infected with the herpes virus adapt to this infection.
Treatment methods for herpes simplex virus
There is currently no cure that eliminates the herpes simplex virus, and the existing treatments work to reduce the reproduction and shedding of the virus from the infected person to others, as well as alleviate the symptoms associated with the infection.
The most effective medicines for people infected with HSV are antiviral medicines such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valciclovir because they help reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms, but they cannot cure the infection.
Prevention of herpes simplex virus infection
The herpes simplex virus, in both types, is highly contagious and can be transmitted in cases where symptoms are not felt and are not noticed.
- Personal hygiene is very important, especially by washing hands with soap and water.
- Not to touch or scratch the sores in the event of an infection, so that the infection does not spread to healthy places in the body.
- People with symptoms of herpes should avoid sharing personal items and items that come into contact with saliva so that the infection is not transmitted to others.
- Refrain from sexual intercourse during the period of illness to prevent transmission of herpes to their partners.
- People already infected with HSV-1 cannot catch it again, but they can become infected with the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) that infects the genital area.
- Regular and proper use of condoms can help prevent the spread of genital herpes.
- Pregnant women with symptoms of genital herpes should inform a specialist doctor about this.
- Prevention of primary infection with the genital herpes virus is especially important in late pregnancy because in such cases there is a high risk of contracting neonatal herpes.
Additional studies are being conducted to determine more effective methods of preventing HSV infection such as vaccines or topical bacteria (drugs to protect against sexually transmitted diseases that may be used inside the vagina or inside the womb).
WHO and its partners are accelerating research to develop new strategies to prevent and control neonatal and genital genital infections caused by the HSV-1 and HSV-2 strains.